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John Newton went to sea at the age of 11 and was forced to enlist on a British man-of-war seven years later. He was captured after deserting the intolerable conditions and exchanged to the crew of a slave ship. He began reading a book he found on board— Imitation of Christ—which began to sow the seeds of conversion. Newton eventually gave his life to Christ during a storm which threatened the ship. For the rest of his life he observed May 10, 1748, as the day of his conversion. He was promoted to captain of a slave ship traveling between North Africa and England. Slave ships left England empty and anchored off the African coast. Tribal chiefs would deliver men and women captured in raids and wars to the buyers, who would select the finest specimens. Then the captives would be loaded aboard ship, packed in like sardines below deck and chained to prevent suicides. Those that survived the voyage to the New World were traded for molasses and sugar to make rum, which the ships would take back to England. Then the ships were off to Africa to begin their miserable trade all over again. It took six years for the inhuman aspects of the business to force Newton to leave the sea for good.